Until you are in a situation where dietary restrictions affect your family, it is very difficult to imagine the amount of life-long adaptations and daily considerations that come with the territory.
To say Maddie’s fructose intolerance was a “game changer” is an understatement; her diagnosis 2.5 years ago had nearly as large an impact on our family and daily lives as her birth 3 years ago.
It has changed practical, everyday things like what food we buy, what we choose to eat and going out to dinner.
It has changed our social habits and family time, too.
No random ice cream trips on hot summer nights.
No cookies nor candy treats.
Not even any birthday cake.
We’ve grown accustomed to bringing along our own food wherever we go. We’ve found it easiest to provide the snacks she’s given at preschool and feel lucky to have found a particular brand of cookies that are made with a sweetener she can reasonably tolerate.
Dealing with any type of food intolerance or allergy in your family falls anywhere from Inconvenient at Best to Downright Terrifying if your child’s allergy could result in death. Maddie’s issue is not a fatal one, though its uncommon nature makes for a different set of challenges.
Many people have never even heard the term “fructose” before, let alone have an awareness that others can be sensitive to it or the incredible number of foods that contain HFCS or other artificial sweeteners (This is not limited to obviously-sweet foods either. I can’t think of a blander food item that Saltines crackers and even they contain HFCS).
If Maddie’s sensitivity was to a more common food, it would be a lot easier to ask questions of a party hostess or waiter, or quickly find allergy information on packaged foods. But it is what it is, and this is our reality.
We’ve managed to successfully cross each hurdle as it’s been presented to us. Maddie is now 3 and we’ve tackled everything up to and including preschool snacks, potty training rewards, Halloween, and birthday parties.
Our next task?
Maddie has reached an age where she can make the connection between the foods she eats and the pain in her belly. This is both a blessing as well as a curse because her ability to make that connection – and then articulate it to me – means my heart sinks a bit each time she tells me that some food I thought was OK for her, turns out to have been causing her pain.
I’m not comfortable with the frequency I’ve been hearing this from her recently and now I’m worried my baby has had a belly ache more often than not during her 3 years on this Earth.
And to make matters worse?
The only way to know if a certain menu item is safe for “Maddie consumption” is to let her give it a try.
Making the decision to take that gamble never gets any easier.